For the most part, this book will have you giggling in fits as you follow the unlikely hero, a Turkish Russian con-man called Ostap Bender, who is first presented as a heartless swindler, betraying the affections of wealthy widows and running off with their savings. Then you gradually realise his predicament, his dreams for a better life against all odds under Soviet oppression, with only his wits about him to devise ingenious schemes to scrape enough money to get by (such as the hilarious chessmaster hoax at a lumberjack's chess club!), and your heart gradually warms to him. Likewise can be said for the anti-hero who becomes his partner, Ippolit Matveyevich, formerly a wealthy aristoractic military man, loses everything in the revolution, and forced to work a dehumanised existence in a lowly clerk-job, and who is rightful owner of the 12 chairs, distributed after his family home was ransacked by the Bulsheviks. As always in Russian literature of this era, there is always a fixation with tragedy in the ending of novels (perhaps this is where Bulgakov, with Master and Margaritta, decided to break the mould) - I'll refrain from revealing the details of the tragedy. None the less, this book is a humorous satire for the most part, there are some very amusing asides about Soviet life and bureaucracy, and the never-ending long-winded public speeches that officials like to give. There is very much an influence of Gogol, from the prose to the extraordinary intensity and vividness of impressionist vision. Indeed Ilf and Petrov were his contempories, and there are many parallels between Ostap Bender and Chichikov, the unlikely hero of Gogol's Dead Souls - both characters live "on the road", and have ingenius plans to try and make money, albeit through a modicum of dishonesty. Like Dead Souls, The Twelve Chairs is a gem that you will not want to put down, it is a much neglected work, and it is a shame that it seems to be out of print.